Wednesday, September 19, 2012

LDS Church Issued A Statement In 2006 Disavowing Any Official Stance On Whether Or Not Jesus Was Married

Most readers of this blog have already learned of the discovery of a double-sided fragment of papyrus no bigger than a business card which has ignited speculation that Jesus Christ was married during his mortal probation. Karen Kelley, a professor at Harvard Divinity School at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, explains "And then Jesus said to his disciples, 'My wife,' and in the next sentence he says she is able to be my disciple". Kelly said that those phrases -- "my wife" and the idea Jesus may have had a female disciple -- have not appeared before in historical writing. The professor was given the fragment by an anonymous collector, and while she is convinced the translation is accurate, she still questions whether or not it is enough to answer the question one way or another. Some historical experts at a Coptic conference currently in progress in Rome think it's a forgery.

Naturally, various Christian denominations have been asked to weigh in. A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church said, "Let the scholars say what they want, the Church stands by its doctrine, which goes back to the earliest Christians." So what about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? The question about the LDS Church's official doctrinal position on this issue previously arose after the release of the movie "The DaVinci Code" in 2006. According to the Bloggernacle Times on May 17th, 2006, the LDS Church issued this statement by spokesman Dale Bills, published by KSL Channel 5:

“The belief that Christ was married has never been official Church doctrine. It is neither sanctioned nor taught by the Church. While it is true that a few Church leaders in the mid-1800s expressed their opinions on the matter, it was not then, and is not now, Church doctrine.”

This doesn't mean that Jesus wasn't married. It simply means that Church leaders have not received an official answer via revelation to canonize and disseminate to the general membership. Thus members remain free to speculate and debate on this question.

According to FAIRMormon, several LDS leaders including Apostle Orson Hyde and President Joseph Fielding Smith believe that Jesus was married. The Mormon academic community has previously weighed in. In 2006, Andrew Skinner, Ph.D., BYU Dept. of Religion, said "There is nothing in the canonical New Testament, there is nothing in restoration scripture, there is really even nothing in non-canonical sources that you can use as evidence that Jesus was married or he wasn't married. The sources are silent on that aspect."

Among the rank-and-file membership, the debate has been sparked anew on Mormon Mentality. Those who believe Jesus was married justify their position by saying that He would have to be married at some point (whether in this life or the next) to achieve the celestial kingdom, because the new and everlasting covenant of marriage is required for exaltation, just like baptism. Since Christ was baptized to fulfill the law, it would stand to reason that He would also have to partake of the marital covenant. However, those who disagree fail to see how Jesus would have the time to minister and care for a family. This would also raise interesting questions about Jesus' progeny; namely, how much of the Father's divine genes would they inherit.

By Common Consent offers a more substantive and academically-oriented discussion. On Nine Moons, Bryan H. writes "Jesus had a divine mission for which He was uniquely qualified, so it would be excusable for His ministry to take precedence over things like marriage. Like Paul, for instance, who describes himself as the devoutest of the devout among the Jews before his conversion, but was also unmarried and was the greatest missionary of his time. I used to think that Jesus was married, but I’ve changed my mind because of the basic argument from silence already mentioned. So I realize that I won’t sound very convincing".

For my part, while I do not dismiss the possibility that Jesus was married, I do find it improbable. His mission simply was too singular and would have demanded too much of His time. And as far as exaltation is concerned, because Jesus performed such a unique and vital mission, the Father would have the power to exalt Him even before he entered into the covenant of marriage. This is not an issue I'm inclined to spend much time on at this point.

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